By CHEGE MBITIRUP
A US army general has launched a new front in northern Iraqi. It’s against one of sexual contacts’ results. Pregnant soldiers and their amorous comrades will face court martial.
Major General Anthony Cucolo announced the offensive early last month. It applies to all under his command: singles, husband and wife serving together, and civilians.
Of course, the general doesn’t plan to execute anybody. A jail term will do.
However, in military law minor infractions tend to snowball, resulting in severer penalties.
Essentially, the order assaults personal autonomy.
Also the first time
It’s also the first time in US Army history that pregnancy has become a punishable offence. Surprisingly though, the story hit headlines nine days ago.
The Star and Stripes, army newspaper, quoted Colonel David S. Thompson, the inspector general for all troops in Iraq, saying the order is legal. Judge advocates, the lawyers who advise courts’ martial judges, have said so.
Colonel Thompson told the newspaper nobody has so far been accused or punished under the new policy. Undoubtedly, trouble will begin when that happens. Mr Eugene Fidell, who teaches at Yale Law School, told the newspaper the order is fraught with legal, ethical and policy issues.
For the time being though, a few problems become obvious.
Pregnancy, except very rarely, is easy to see. Additionally, only the woman can identify the man responsible and a promiscuous one can’t. In any case, a woman can refuse to identify her partner. In both cases, the woman is stuck with pregnancy and court martial.
In the second, an offence, failure to disclose facts to a commanding officer, exists. Then there’s the issue of rape. In May, the Pentagon reported receiving 2,923 reports of sexual assaults, not necessarily rape, last year. Rape is such a problem some female soldiers have admitted carrying hunting knives to fend off sexual marauders in their units.
The general says the policy will not apply in rape cases. Well, what if, and it’s possible, a woman fails to identify the rapist? If a rapist doesn’t exist, rape as defence vanishes. The woman ends up in very slippery ground.
Moreover, what’s there to prevent the policy’s disproportionate implementation? Under a different policy that bars openly gay persons from serving in the US armed forces, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule, females suffer most. CNN reported in October that last year women represented 36 percent of gays the Air Force discharged, yet they form only 13 per cent of personnel.
All this creates the impression of anti-women armed forces. They aren’t, considering where they’ve come from.
Time was, for example, when Women’s Army Corps regulations stated, “An enrolled woman will be discharged if she becomes pregnant…” Pregnancy also qualified as a sickness “not in line of duty.” Up to 1976, even becoming a stepmother meant involuntary discharge.
Here’s is an ignominy. A Vietnam veteran intelligence officer involuntarily discharged for becoming pregnant got a citation:
“Your actions are worthy of the Silver Star but because you are a woman it cannot be given to you.”
Now women sit in bomber and Apache attack helicopter cockpits. US armed forces have elaborate procedures for taking care of pregnant soldiers, including sending them to the safest places 14 days after they become pregnant. Gen Cucolo, though, doesn’t like the last bit. It depletes his force.
“I’ve got a mission to do, I’m given a finite number of soldiers with which to do it and I need every one of them,” he told the BBC.
Therefore, he’s taking measures to keep as many as possible.
The general is only re-affirming universality often ignored.
Individuals have to forego some pleasures and rights in order to achieve certain goals. It isn’t so QED, quite easily done, but it’s a reality